Following Jewish tradition, Obama donned a yarmulke and went to the Western Wall, Judaism's holiest site, where shortly before dawn on Thursday he stuffed his prayer into a crevass between the giant white stones, hewn over 2,000 years ago. Traditionally such prayers, and there are over a million every year, some arriving by fax and email, are collected twice a year and buried on the Mount of Olives. It is considered taboo to read the prayers.
But after Obama and his entourage left the sacred site, an orthodox seminary student went to the Wall, fished out Obama's personal note and delivered it to Maariv newspaper, which duly printed the senator's prayer.
The newspaper's decision to publish Obama's private words was "an outrage", said Rabbbi Shmuel Rabinowitz, supervisor of the Western Wall. "It damages the personal, deep part of every one of us that we keep to ourselves," the rabbi told Army Radio. "The note placed between the stones of the Western Wall are between a person and his maker. It is forbidden to read them or make use of them."
Obama didn't pray for an election victory, a lottery win to help pay for his campaign, or for his Republican rival Senator John McCain to be felled by lightning or a pecadillo. On the contrary; his prayer hints at the struggle within, how Obama is seeking divine guidance to surmount the obstacles that lie ahead of him in his lonely, awesome challenge to become the next president of the United States. On hotel stationary, he penned the following prayer, according to Maariv, which ran a photo of the note:
"Lord, protect my family and me," Obama wrote. "Forgive me my sins and help me guard against pride and despair. Give me the wisdom to do what is right and just. And make me an instrument of your will."
Obama, now finishing up the European leg of his tour, has not commented on his private prayer being made public in Jerusalem.